Pop Quiz, Monday with Rishi Thomas

They’re all brilliant. Each member of Contrary brings in a host of talents and expertise. My teammates at USC are two of the brightest minds that I have met, and they continue to inspire me to think differently and be accepting of all ideas.

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
Rishi Thomas

Rishi Thomas
Photo credit: Rishi Thomas

What is your job role?
Venture Partner at Contrary Capital

Tell us about your company?
Contrary is a university focused fund. 100+ Venture partners like myself are students at universities at 40+ locations with various domains of expertise and startup experience.

Most of our LPs have been founding members at $1B+ companies such as Emmett Shear (Twitch), Daniel Macklin (SoFi), Steve Huffman (Reddit) and more.

We believe in backing the best and brightest founders in the university space, so if you think that is you, reach out to us!

To find out more, please visit our website https://contrarycap.com/.

What do you love most about your job?
The learning, even though the curve has been very steep. I am not only talking about learning about early-stage venture investing, but also understanding how feasible ideas are, and how people drive disruptive ideas to become industry titans. My interactions with founders have been the most valuable experience because they radiate passion and expertise. Therefore, through them, I personally learn a lot about the world of startups and venture and thoroughly enjoy the process of learning while making new friends.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
The uncertainty of what the next achievement may be. You never know what you stumble upon, or who you speak with that would spark an idea or thought that could propel you to ‘the next level.’

How do your co-workers inspire you?
They’re all brilliant. Each member of Contrary brings in a host of talents and expertise. My teammates at USC are two of the brightest minds that I have met, and they continue to inspire me to think differently and be accepting of all ideas.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
Being a VC while also being a student at the university is in itself quite fun. We attend events on and off campus and spend time hanging out and talking about various topics startup related and otherwise. There was this one time that we ended up at a taco place and ordered the whole menu.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
Not knowing enough. Being relevant and learning about various industries and ideas is extremely important. The amount of knowledge that I have right now might be made obsolete in the next couple of minutes, so constantly being able to absorb information becomes crucial.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
The first project that I worked on with a friend immediately taught me the value of building for the user and finding a sustainable way to keep the company alive. My co-founder and I were too busy building a product for a problem and did not give much thought as to how the product would add value to a user. Qdero was an online job consulting platform. We facilitated thousands of interactions between students and experts in India but were never able to effectively understand how else to augment their search for jobs and learning. We also struggled with finding a way to make recurring revenues because most students’ willingness to pay was very low, so naturally making money off of each interaction was out of the question.

Being at the university across the world where business was taking place also added its own set of problems, so both my co-founder and I decided to scrap the idea. This time would also have been perfect for a pivot, but we decided to start working on other things. All in all, build a product that your users will value and consider sustainable revenue models that would support growth over long periods of time.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?
All you have to do is learn. Meet new people, read as much as possible and immerse yourself in the community. Startups and venture capital, in my opinion, is about people. Therefore, being able to meet people with radical ideas, understanding what their thought process is or what they are learning is really valuable. I personally think of meeting people as a cheat for learning. Most individuals spend years amassing knowledge and insight, which one can effectively extract in a couple of hours of meeting someone, so use that to your advantage.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:


Author: Ricky Singh, MBA

Editor of The Startup Growth.

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